Felix Omondi an 11-year-old student with Mkombozi in a compound on the outskirts of Nairobi, Monday, May 9, 2005. The nursing dog foraging for food saved the life of a baby girl abandoned in a forest.
Mkombozi's story is legendary in Nairobi, Kenya, if not the world. The African dog currently resides at the Kenya SPCA where she spends her retirement sleeping in a soft bed and teaching school children about animal welfare. It’s a good role for her, considering how the stray dog ended up at her comfortable home. After all, back in 2005, Mkombozi became famous for saving an abandoned newborn baby and carrying her back to her ‘home’, where she was nursing her own young.
The heroic dog reportedly found the infant, wrapped in rags, in the Ngong Forest where she was scavanging for food. She was seen dragging a package (which had the baby inside) across a busy road and through a barbed wire fence before disappearing in the poor Nairobi neighborhood where she was living with her puppies.
The infant and dog were soon discovered after two children heard the sound of a baby crying near their wooden shack, and alerted their parents. Aggrey Mwalimu, mother of the boys and owner of the shed, found the baby lying next to the dog and a puppy.
The baby was taken to the hospital for treatment for exposure, where she recovered after a few weeks in intensive care. Media in Kenya report regularly of newborns abandoned by mothers because of extreme poverty and their inability to care for the child. Most people who abandon babies are never caught.
After her last surviving puppy died, the mothering dog was taken in by the Kenya SPCA and tended to. The staff named her Mkombozi, which is swahili word for Savior. At first Mkombozi wasn’t overly happy to see her rescuers. Jean Gilchrist, executive director of the KSPCA recounted: "She wasn't happy when we all poured into the compound. She decided to leave, but kids in the compound brought her back for the bath because she was full of ticks." The tan short-haired mixed breed who was heavy with milk from nursing, was bathed and de-wormed and taken to the shelter.
Gilchrist speculated that the dog was possibly trying to care for the child because most of her puppies had died. "She reckoned it was a young animal and possibly wanted to bring it up," Gilchrist said. "It is something to do with the canine-human bond. Other dogs might have just left her there to die. ... She's obviously a very special dog," Gilchrist added. "She is a very street-wise dog, that is for sure. The other dogs in the compound did not look very well, but she is the fattest of them all - she obviously knows how to look after herself."
The KSPCA decided to adopt Mkombozi soon after, putting Mkombozi's days of scavenging for food to an end. And baby "Angel", as she was called also found a new home. Her story generated a lot of interest and she was adopted after police were unsuccessful in finding her mother and she was not claimed. Were it not for Mkombozi’s kindness and heroic act, Angel would not be alive today.
Angel, the orphaned baby, who was saved by Mkombozi.